The Exploration Society instructor team took advantage of a traditionally quieter period of the year to hone some of their outdoor skills. This annual week-long getaway is an essential part of The Exploration Society’s extensive staff development programme. Our expedition and trips co-ordinator Gray kindly gives his brief take on the week.
The team set out from London on Sunday evening. Destination: Lake Windermere for a week of staff training. The plan was to split into two teams: Team A would spend two days on the water, then two days trekking on the hills with an overnight camp and Team B would do vice versa. Our team drew the long straw and we were the first ones out on the lake in canoes. The weather was interesting to say the least, but luckily we were all in dry suits. The other team were hiking and were not so lucky…
We spent the first day with our operations director and paddling supremo Phil. He guided us through manoeuvres and exercises focusing on group control and how to plan sessions on large bodies of water. After a testing day, we couldn’t resist jumping off the pier to have a swim. Dry suits are great!
In the evening, we gathered back at the hostel with the other team who had been hiking. We shared our stories and cooked them a wholesome meal.
The second day was focused on moving water. Again, my group was led by Phil. We set out early in the morning to paddle down a section of the river Eden. It was a cold start, but the river was quiet and beautiful with the odd section of white water which made things more interesting.
Due to the horrific weather, we headed back later than expected. Surprisingly, the other team had paid us back two-fold and had cooked us a wonderful meal, very welcome indeed!
Our turn hiking and navigating on the hills! Luckily for us, the weather had turned. Cold, clear skies with a rather whipping wind, but wearing few warm layers of clothing whilst carrying a heavy backpack uphill soon countered that. On our trek, we set each other navigation-based challenges. One challenge was to lead the group to the exact point on a map (within a meter) in a featureless area, using only contour lines and compass bearings. We had planned a route the night before with built in get-out-clauses if the weather turned against us. We also planned an area to aim for where we could camp for the night. The point we had decided on was just above the Kentmere Reservoir. After passing over Ill bell, we cut straight down into the valley disturbing a herd of deer. Here we set up camp. I had chosen to go without a tent, so I set up my tarp and bivy bag in the lee of a rocky outcrop, as we were expecting heavy rain from midnight onwards. In the dark of the late afternoon and evening, we carried out some night navigation exercises, using compass bearings before dinner and bed.
In the night I was woken up by a strange sound. Expecting rain, I was pleasantly surprised to see it was snow building up and then slipping down the side of the tarp. Our morning was brightened by the wonderful sight of clear blue skies and the surrounding hills dusted in white. After a hot coffee and breakfast, we packed up, marvelled at the view and set off down the valley to reunite with Team B and head home. What a way to start the year!
-Gray Morris (Trips Coordinator at The Exploration Society)